Southern Comfort: Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smoky Mountains

At the beginning of August, Emily and I embarked on a good old-fashioned road-trip.  We left the house on a Sunday evening with no particular destination in mind except for Asheville, NC, six days later for her grandmother’s birthday celebration.  This freedom allowed us to explore a number of places.

The first night, we set out to drive until we were too tired and needed to stop.  This plan quickly took a detour when we discovered a Wegmans. Since we wanted to spend as little money as possible, we had a cooler with us and stocked up on a few road-trip essentials. After I finally dragged Emily out of the store (my wife loves a good grocery store), we headed further into Virginia and over to the Blue Ridge Parkway before settling down for the night.

We woke up early to beat the sun to the mountain ridge.  We succeeded, and the sun rewarded us with its warm, early-morning light.  The first area we explored was Otter Lake.  The lake was formed from an old dam with a waterfall.  We goofed off a little below the falls but also took the time to enjoy the sounds of the trickling water and solitude of the woods.  A couple miles up the road, we found Arnold Valley filled with a fluffy, white blanket of clouds.  The mountain ridges looked like islands in the ocean.  Further down the parkway, we watched the clouds spill over cliffs and envelop our car – at times it looked like we were about to drive into the sky.  It was a spectacular morning and a great reason to be an early riser.

With the sun high above us, and the thermometer hitting a hundred, we darted down I-81 to Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains.  On the way, we stopped off at a roadside stand for some Southern BBQ – yummy.  In the early afternoon, we reached Townsend, TN; a sleepy town just outside Smoky Mountain National Park.  At the time we did not realize how fortunate we were to have selected this town to stay in.  Dropping our stuff off, we drove into the park and turned and turned and turned and turned.   For 30 miles the road snaked along a river bed and slowly up into the mountains.   Ultimately, it took us to a trail head and our first (muggy but pleasant) hike into the forest.  We were rewarded by a hidden waterfall and bears foraging in the forest.  It was a good first day.

Sunrise at Otter Lake.

The dam and waterfall holding back Otter Lake.

Emily practicing her yoga.

The Arnold Valley.

Floating above the clouds.

Heading into the sky.

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~ by Rob Page III on November 6, 2011.

One Response to “Southern Comfort: Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smoky Mountains”

  1. […] a wonderful first day traveling down to the Smoky Mountains, we visited one of its jewels – Cades Cove.  Emily was so excited to go she woke us up an hour […]

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